Rachel’s Sabbath and the Far Right’s Attack on Women

Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

Rachel Sabbath honors the biblical matriarch who died in childbirth. As Rachel Sabbath approaches, a rabbi underscores the moral and human dimensions of reproductive health and rights, and urges every one of us to act.

This article was originally published by the IndyStar.com.

In commemoration of the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, congregations across the country are designating the weekend of March 4-6 as Rachel Sabbath. In the Bible, Rachel is the matriarch who dies in childbirth.

The purpose of this day is to raise awareness of the crisis in reproductive health services and care around the world. Rachel Sabbath supports the United Nations goal of improving maternal health by doubling current global investments in family planning, reproductive and health services to women around the world. The effort could save $1.5 billion in long-term medical costs and it would save the lives of 400,000 women and 1.6 million infants each year.

Women in developing countries are at greatest risk. In Niger, the risk of women dying from pregnancy-related complications is one in seven, the highest in the world. The lowest-risk country is Ireland. Despite our exemplary medical care, 40 nations have a lower risk of maternal death than the United States.

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So it is both shocking and appalling that in America, federal legislation is being proposed that would eliminate Title X funding, which covers family planning and preventive reproductive medical care. Federal and state legislation also is targeting Planned Parenthood funding.

What’s behind these efforts? There are those who say that the economy is bad; we have a huge deficit. We can’t afford the money. Yet the facts tell a different story. For every public dollar spent on family planning in Indiana, taxpayers save $4.78 in state and federal Medicaid costs. If funds are cut from Planned Parenthood, it could potentially cost the state an additional $68 million in Medicaid-covered births.

There are those who claim that Planned Parenthood uses federal dollars to fund abortions. Yet the facts tell a different story. The Hyde amendment prevents any federal funds from being used for abortions except in rare cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the woman.

Where do the federal dollars go? They are used to provide preventive health services from Pap tests and breast exams that detect cancer; they are spent for birth control that reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies which, in turn, decreases abortion; they serve to screen and treat sexually transmitted diseases that protect the health of our young people.

From a purely fiscal perspective, we cannot afford the economic costs of failing to provide these services. But this is not only about numbers; it is about people. And the human cost is staggering. Imagine considering passing laws that would put in jeopardy the health and lives of more than 22,000 Hoosier women who rely on Planned Parenthood of Indiana and 1.85 million low-income women nationwide who receive medical care at Planned Parenthood clinics each year. It should be unthinkable; but it is not.

There is a crisis in reproductive health care around the globe. If this legislation passes, there will be a crisis here in Indiana and around our country. Despite inflammatory rhetoric to the contrary, this isn’t about the economy or even about abortion; it is about the lives and health of women — our mothers, daughters, sisters and friends.

We need to let our legislators know that the health and well-being of women is not expendable. This is not an issue of concern to women only. It is a moral, human issue that ought to be of concern to every one of us.

News Politics

Clinton Campaign Announces Tim Kaine as Pick for Vice President

Ally Boguhn

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

The Clinton campaign announced Friday that Sen. Tim Kaine (R-VA) has been selected to join Hillary Clinton’s ticket as her vice presidential candidate.

“I’m thrilled to announce my running mate, @TimKaine, a man who’s devoted his life to fighting for others,” said Clinton in a tweet.

“.@TimKaine is a relentless optimist who believes no problem is unsolvable if you put in the work to solve it,” she added.

The prospect of Kaine’s selection has been criticized by some progressives due to his stances on issues including abortion as well as bank and trade regulation.

Kaine signed two letters this week calling for the regulations on banks to be eased, according to a Wednesday report published by the Huffington Post, thereby ”setting himself up as a figure willing to do battle with the progressive wing of the party.”

Charles Chamberlain, executive director of the progressive political action committee Democracy for America, told the New York Times that Kaine’s selection “could be disastrous for our efforts to defeat Donald Trump in the fall” given the senator’s apparent support of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Just before Clinton’s campaign made the official announcement that Kaine had been selected, the senator praised the TPP during an interview with the Intercept, though he signaled he had ultimately not decided how he would vote on the matter.

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Kaine’s record on reproductive rights has also generated controversy as news began to circulate that he was being considered to join Clinton’s ticket. Though Kaine recently argued in favor of providing Planned Parenthood with access to funding to fight the Zika virus and signed on as a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act—which would prohibit states and the federal government from enacting restrictions on abortion that aren’t applied to comparable medical services—he has also been vocal about his personal opposition to abortion.

In a June interview on NBC’s Meet the Press, Kaine told host Chuck Todd he was “personally” opposed to abortion. He went on, however, to affirm that he still believed “not just as a matter of politics, but even as a matter of morality, that matters about reproduction and intimacy and relationships and contraception are in the personal realm. They’re moral decisions for individuals to make for themselves. And the last thing we need is government intruding into those personal decisions.”

As Rewire has previously reported, though Kaine may have a 100 percent rating for his time in the Senate from Planned Parenthood Action Fund, the campaign website for his 2005 run for governor of Virginia promised he would “work in good faith to reduce abortions” by enforcing Virginia’s “restrictions on abortion and passing an enforceable ban on partial birth abortion that protects the life and health of the mother.”

As governor, Kaine did support some existing restrictions on abortion, including Virginia’s parental consent law and a so-called informed consent law. He also signed a 2009 measure that created “Choose Life” license plates in the state, and gave a percentage of the proceeds to a crisis pregnancy network.

Regardless of Clinton’s vice president pick, the “center of gravity in the Democratic Party has shifted in a bold, populist, progressive direction,” said Stephanie Taylor, co-founder of the Progressive Change Campaign Committee, in an emailed statement. “It’s now more important than ever that Hillary Clinton run an aggressive campaign on core economic ideas like expanding Social Security, debt-free college, Wall Street reform, and yes, stopping the TPP. It’s the best way to unite the Democratic Party, and stop Republicans from winning over swing voters on bread-and-butter issues.”

News Abortion

Parental Notification Law Struck Down in Alaska

Michelle D. Anderson

"The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions," said Janet Crepps, senior counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm."

The Alaska Supreme Court has struck down a state law requiring physicians to give the parents, guardians, or custodians of teenage minors a two-day notice before performing an abortion.

The court ruled that the parental notification law, which applies to teenagers younger than 18, violated the Alaska Constitution’s equal protection guarantee and could not be enforced.

The ruling stems from an Anchorage Superior Court decision that involved the case of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and physicians Dr. Jan Whitefield and Dr. Susan Lemagie against the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors.

In the lower court ruling, a judge denied Planned Parenthood’s requested preliminary injunction against the law as a whole and went on to uphold the majority of the notification law.

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Planned Parenthood and the physicians had appealed that superior court ruling and asked for a reversal on both equal protection and privacy grounds.

Meanwhile, the State of Alaska and the notification law’s sponsors appealed the court’s decision to strike some of its provisions and the court’s ruling.

The notification law came about after an initiative approved by voters in August 2010. The law applied to “unemancipated, unmarried minors” younger than 18 seeking to terminate a pregnancy and only makes exceptions in documented cases of abuse and medical emergencies, such as one in which the pregnant person’s life is in danger.

Justice Daniel E. Winfree wrote in the majority opinion that the anti-choice law created “considerable tension between a minor’s fundamental privacy right to reproductive choice and how the State may advance its compelling interests.”

He said the law was discriminatory and that it could unjustifiably burden “the fundamental privacy rights only of minors seeking pregnancy termination, rather than [equally] to all pregnant minors.”

Chief Justice Craig Stowers dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion “unjustifiably” departed from the Alaska Supreme Court’s prior approval of parental notification.

Stowers said the opinion “misapplies our equal protection case law by comparing two groups that are not similarly situated, and fails to consider how other states have handled similar questions related to parental notification laws.”

Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) officials praised the court’s ruling, saying that Alaska’s vulnerable teenagers will now be relieved of additional burdensome hurdles in accessing abortion care. Attorneys from the American Civil Liberties Union, CRR, and Planned Parenthood represented plaintiffs in the case.

Janet Crepps, senior counsel at CRR, said in a statement that the “decision provides important protection to the safety and well-being of young women who need to end a pregnancy.”

“The reality is that some young women face desperate circumstances and potentially violent consequences if they are forced to bring their parents into their reproductive health decisions. This law would have deprived these vulnerable women of their constitutional rights and put them at risk of serious harm,” Crepps said.

CRR officials also noted that most young women seeking abortion care involve a parent, but some do not because they live an abusive or unsafe home.

The American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the Society for Adolescent Medicine have said minors’ access to confidential reproductive health services should be protected, according to CRR.